Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Amak Excavation Conclusions

A hearth
Final shot of the excavation showing the hearths
Jenny and Ryan digging in buggy conditions

Jenny's sideblade

Last Wednesday we finished our excavation and on Thursday it was all backfilled. We opened a huge area this year and moved a massive amount of dirt. Despite finding some very confusing deposits and features, we did figure a lot of it out and were able to answer our research questions fairly thoroughly.

We found good support for our hypothesis that this was a seal hunting camp. We found MANY more bayonets (ground slate spear points) and a few chipped stone points - all of which would have been used for hunting. It still amazes me how many bayonets were in this site. It was not unusual for us to have a day where four, five, or even six bayonets were found (that is very unusual at any other site Patrick or I have dug at). We still not not find any evidence of real houses, also leading us to believe it was more of a temporary camp than a village.

Our second main research goal was to figure out why people in Ocean Bay II times (~5500 years ago)  moved so much dirt. I'm not exactly sure we answered that question in regards to what they were doing in the area we excavated last year, but I think we've done a good job figuring out what they were doing where we excavated this year.

We found what we consider to be a large structure where people had hearths and were cooking or smoking seal meat. It looks like they dug down into the sediment at the site (both volcanic tephra like the orangish ones you see on the left side of the excavation) and the glacial till (sediment that was left behind when the glaciers receded from this valley ~12,000 years ago). In the first photo above you can see five depressions with rocks in the bottom of the excavation - those are all hearths. They are sitting on glacial till that has been sort of cleared off by people - when the people dug into it, they removed the larger rocks to make a smoothe-ish surface. We also found three post holes near the hearths. We think they posts held up hides and perhaps a think layer of dirt and sod was piled up against the back (that later collapsed and we had to dig through it to get to the glacial till). We think people were smoking something here because we found lots of black dirt full of charcoal and fire cracked rock. We assume it was seal meat because other evidence from the site points to seal hunting. Features like this full of charcoal and fire cracked rock are very common in more recent sites (after ~4000 years ago) where people were smoking fish, but this seems to be the oldest feature of this type excavated on Kodiak.

Mapping features in the excavation before backfilling

Andrea and I drawing a profile
After we finished the excavation we had quite a bit of mapping and profiling to do before we could backfill. In the second photo, Andrea is measuring the depth below the surface of a deposit while I draw the profile in the notebook. These profiles help us figure out and record the relationship between different layers at the site. We "shoot" the elevation of the surface of our excavation from a transit (set on our site datum) and then we measure the depth of each level below the surface. We then know the depth of each level below our site datum.

We had an amazing crew for backfilling - especially since most of these people weren't getting paid! Most of them are either volunteers (including Ryan and John) or students. Even Patrick's kids, Nora and Stuey, came out to help (they really enjoyed carrying half-full buckets, although Stuey carried a couple of full ones!). With so many hands, we were done by 3:00.

There is more we learned in our last week that I want to write about, but I'll wait for another day. The internet has been too slow to upload photos at my parents' house, so I'll have to post on days I come into town.

A hard working backfilling crew!
The backfilling crew, minus Jill who had to go into the museum after lunch

Stuey and Nora inspecting our backfilling job

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